Spotlight On: The City of St. Peters

With sustainability gaining steam as a key goal for St. Louis area municipalities, the Clean Air Partnership will be using our blog to highlight some of the incredible eco-friendly initiatives underway in several cities across the region that are not only improving the environment, but also helping to reduce air pollution in the region. This month, we’re kicking things off with a spotlight on the City of St. Peters.

 
In 2012, St. Peters became the first municipality to participate in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge. The Challenge is a joint program of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the Missouri Botanical Garden that helps businesses of all types and sizes to integrate “Triple Bottom Line” (fiscal, social and environmental) measures into the kinds of daily operations common to every business. Participants identify and adopt strategies that improve financial performance and engage employees in voluntary measures to reduce environmental impacts.

 
In 2015, when the program launched a pilot “Green Cities Challenge” in 2015, to address the unique needs of local government business operations, the City of St. Peters engaged in a significant mentoring relationship with the City of St. Charles to help the community achieve its sustainable goals. As part of the mentorship process, the city worked with a menu of basic sustainability policies and practices, including measures defined by OneSTL, the regional plan for sustainable development. Sustainability leaders for St. Peters were able to assist the new St. Charles Green Team as they accomplished their selected Green Cities goals.

 
Participating in the Green Business Challenge at the rigorous Champion level, the City of St. Peters’ achievements included involving Recycling Ambassadors in its “Sunset Fridays” summer concert events. These volunteers educated the public while helping to recycle 151 pounds of cans and bottles. The City also hosted a “Clean Streams Day,” in which volunteers helped clean over 6,400 pounds of litter from area streams, and also implemented a “Shred It and Forget It” initiative, in which residents dropped off over 25,500 pounds of documents for shredding and recycling. Recent sustainable innovations in the City of St. Peters include placing recycling trucks on the roads; enacting a city office junk mail reduction initiative and developing the “No Ifs, Ands or Butts” campaign to encourage individuals to properly dispose of their cigarette butts.

 
In addition to helping reduce waste, the efforts made by the City of St. Peters are having a positive impact on air quality and helping to improve lung health in the region by reducing the emissions created during resources extraction, manufacturing and disposal.

 
Today, the City of St. Peters continues its sustainability commitment though advanced work in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge and as a mentor to both company and municipality Challenge participants. The City’s support for other municipalities, in both Missouri and Illinois, is especially valuable, as it provides them with experience-based insights to assist community leaders in advancing their own sustainable goals.

 
On Dec. 2, the City of St. Peters and other 2016 St. Louis Green Business Challenge participants will be recognized for their efforts as part of the 7th annual Green Business Challenge Awards ceremony. For information on the event, or to learn more about getting your municipality or company involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com.

 
To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Vehicle idling: Myth vs. Fact

As cooler, fall temperatures begin to settle into the region, you may be tempted to idle your vehicle more often than usual. Idling is one of the main contributors to air pollution, yet many misconceptions exist regarding the need to idle and the negative effects of idling on our air, our engines and our pocketbooks. Before you think about warming your car on a cold morning, or idling in a drive-thru or school drop-off zone on a chilly winter afternoon, make sure you can decipher what’s myth and what’s fact when it comes to vehicle idling.

Myth: Engines should be warmed up before driving, especially in cold weather.

Fact: Today’s electronic engines do not need long warm-ups, even in winter. No more than 30 seconds of warm-up time is needed in the winter. Easing into a drive is the best way to get a vehicle heating system to deliver warmer air faster.

Myth: Idling is good for your engine.

Fact: Excessive idling can damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems.  Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build-up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.

Myth: It’s better to leave the engine running than shutting it off and restarting it because “cold starts” are hard on the engine and use more gas.

Fact: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components.  Idling, however, forces an engine to operate in an inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that can affect the engine’s performance and reduce gas mileage. More than ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

Myth: It’s better to leave an engine idling because “cold starts” produce more pollution.

Fact: Driving a car immediately after a cold start allows the engine to heat up significantly faster, especially in newer models. When the car heats faster, its catalytic converter becomes more efficient at reducing emissions — by as much as 99 percent.

Explore our website for information on anti-idling initiatives, or additional steps you can take to help improve air quality. We also encourage you to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

Air pollution brings increased risk for asthma attacks

For most kids, the start of the school year is an exciting time, filled with fun, friends and new adventures. But for kids with asthma, the new school year can come with serious health challenges.
This is because the trip back to class often brings with it a variety of asthma triggers that may lead to asthma attacks. These triggers can include emotional stress and anxiety, new sports routines and indoor and outdoor allergens.

 
The amount of pollution in our air is a major contributor to asthma attacks. Exposure to smog is dangerous for kids, especially since they are still growing and generally spend more time outdoors than adults. Dirty air can interfere with lung development and increase the risk of lung infections in all children, and the health risks are far greater for children with asthma. Currently, approximately 6.3 million children suffer from asthma, and the condition ranks as one of the leading causes of missed school days.

 
Smog is formed when heat and sunlight react with pollution – much of which is released from vehicle tailpipes. Consider where your own children attend school. Is there a long line of parents idling their vehicles as they wait to drop off their children? Are there idling buses near the school entrance? All of those idling vehicles release emissions that are dangerous for children and can exacerbate asthma.
The good news is that since we are a part of the air pollution problem at school, we can also be a part of the solution. By simply making a commitment to refrain from idling on school grounds, we can help reduce the emissions that lead to poor air quality and ultimately help students breathe easier.

 

Area schools are also encouraged to get involved in the clean air effort by placing “no idle” signs in their drop-off lanes and parking lots. FREE signs are available to schools by contacting Susannah Fuchs with the Clean Air Partnership via email at [email protected] To learn more, click here.

 
For information about additional steps you can take to help improve air quality, we encourage you to explore the tips page (link to page) of our website. We also encourage you to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

Back to school tips for cleaner air

With the summer season over, children across the region are now settling into their back-to-school routines. If you’re one of the many parents who drive their children to school each day, now is a great time to consider other transportation options that can help reduce the emissions that lead to air pollution, while also helping to improve lung health across the St. Louis area.

The following tips can help make the school commute a more air quality-friendly one:

Walk or bike to class: For kids that live close to school, walking and biking are great commuting options that also offer an opportunity to get some exercise, whenever weather and air quality conditions are favorable.

Encourage the kids to ride the bus: For those who live near a school bus route, the bus can offer an eco-friendly way to get to class, especially as more districts purchase lower pollution buses.

Share the ride to school: If driving to school is the only option for getting there, work with neighbors to organize carpools to reduce emissions and also help parents and students save money on gas.

• Avoid unnecessary idling: Idling engines produce toxic pollution that is known to cause serious health concerns. Exposure to car exhaust can also aggravate asthma symptoms. And with asthma ranking as the most common chronic illness in children, vehicle idling can be especially harmful to kids. When dropping the kids off, avoid idling parking lots, bus and carpool lanes and delivery areas.

At back to school time, and year-round, parents and kids can access a wealth of air quality information and tips to help them do their share for cleaner air on the Clean Air Partnership website. Additional air quality tips and information can also be found on our Facebook page and on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

The link between hot weather and ozone pollution

Over the last several weeks, the St. Louis area has seen its share of scorching temperatures and poor air quality. And as we head into what is traditionally the hottest part of summer, air quality conditions will have the potential to creep into the orange and red range. Have you ever wondered why scorching, hot days are often synonymous with poor air quality?

On summer days, heat and sunlight react with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emitted by automobiles and other sources, which mix to form a ground-level layer of ozone, also known as smog. High amounts of ground-level ozone result in the orange and red air quality days that can pose health risks for all of us, especially children, the elderly and those with respiratory concerns.

When inhaled, even at very low levels, ozone can cause acute respiratory problems, aggravate asthma, result in a 14-20 percent decrease in lung capacity for healthy adults, cause inflammation of lung tissue, lead to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits and impair the body’s immune system defenses, making more people susceptible to respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

The good news is that there are many simple steps we can all take to help reduce the emissions that lead to ozone formation and poor air quality. Since transportation choices have the most profound effect on air quality, efforts to carpool, vanpool, use the bus and MetroLink, telecommute or use flextime, and walk or bike more can go a long way toward improving air quality. Those that drive alone are encouraged to combine errands into a single trip, plan their route in advance to avoid idling in traffic tie-ups and construction zones and refrain from other forms of unnecessary idling.

  • Other emissions-reducing steps individuals can take on poor air quality days include:
  • Refueling gas tanks after dusk and not topping off the tank.
  • Avoiding the use of gas-powered lawn mowers and garden equipment, if possible, or mowing before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m. to avoid peak ozone formation hours.
  • Using a gas grill instead of a charcoal when barbecuing.

Throughout the summer, area residents can view the daily air quality forecast on our homepage. Visitors can also sign up there to receive the daily forecast via email. The forecast and a wealth of air quality tips and information can also be found on our Facebook page and on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

The positive impacts of idle reduction

Tailpipe w-emissionsHow often do you find yourself idling your car in drive-thrus, parking lots or right outside your child’s school? It’s probably a lot more than you care to admit, especially given how bad all of that unnecessary idling is for our air.

Idling vehicles emit 20 times more pollution than a car traveling at 30 mph. And the pollution released from vehicle idling includes air toxics, which are known to cause cancer, respiratory and reproductive issues, birth defects or other serious health concerns.

While you may not always be able to avoid idling, there are many instances when you can make the choice not to idle. These include:

  • Turning off your ignition when you have to wait for more than 10 seconds. Idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine.
  • Not “warming up” your vehicle. Modern engines don’t need more than a few seconds of idle time before they are safe to drive.
  • Planning your trips to avoid construction zones and traffic tie-ups. Resources like MoDOT’s Gateway Guide website at www.gatewayguide.com can alert you to high-traffic areas before you leave the house, allowing you to choose an alternate, idle-free route.

For every 10 minutes your engine is off, you’ll prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released into our air – helping individuals across the region breathe easier. And with statistics noting that 10 minutes of idling a day wastes 27 gallons of fuel a year, choosing not to idle is also a great way to save fuel and money.

Explore our website for information on anti-idling initiatives, or additional steps you can take to help improve air quality. We also encourage you to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

The 411 on AQI

AQI 2

We’re all familiar with the weather forecast, but what about the air quality forecast? During the summer months, daily air quality forecast updates let the public know if it will be a green, yellow, orange or red air quality day – and each color means something different for our health. As the weather heats up and the risk for poor air quality accelerates, these forecasts can play an important role in helping individuals avoid the harmful effects of air pollution.

The colors represent values within the Air Quality Index (AQI), a numerical system that measures how clean or polluted the air is. The Environmental Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants as regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. With values ranging from 0 to 500, the AQI determines health effects that may be experienced within hours or days after breathing polluted air. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and potential for concerns.

The AQI is divided into six categories, each corresponding to a different level of health concern. Symbolized by the color green, an AQI in the 0-50 range is considered “good,” and air pollution poses little to no health risk. When the AQI ranges from 51-100, the health concern level is “moderate” and symbolized by the color yellow. In this range, air quality conditions are acceptable; however, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.

When the AQI ranges from 101 to 150, air quality conditions are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” and symbolized by the color orange. People with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, while those with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air. An AQI from 151 to 200 represents “unhealthy” air quality conditions and is symbolized by the color red. At this AQI, everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects. Any AQI from 201-500, is considered “very unhealthy” or “hazardous,” and can trigger negative health effects and health warnings for the entire population.

The health effects of poor air quality are numerous and can include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation and decreased lung function. Additional risks include aggravation of respiratory problems, asthma, allergies and lung diseases; impairment of the immune system, increased hospital and ER visits and irregular heartbeat, heart attacks and premature death in those with heart or lung disease.

To help keep the public updated on air quality conditions, the Clean Air Partnership posts the daily air quality forecast on our homepage. Residents can also visit the website to sign up to receive the forecast via email. Throughout the summer, the forecast can also be found on our Facebook page or by following the organization on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

More poor air quality days likely this summer

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.28.59 PMThe American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report ranked St. Louis as the 18th most polluted metropolitan area in the nation for ozone pollution, once again confirming what a critical concern air pollution continues to be locally. And those concerns have the potential to ramp up in the coming months, as the St. Louis area settles into its first summer season featuring stricter ozone standards.

Last October, in an effort to further protect public health, the Environmental Protection Agency strengthened the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb), down from 75 ppb. With these standards now in effect, the area has the potential to see many more orange and red poor air quality days this summer.

Luckily, there are a number of steps all of us can take to help reduce emissions, and keep air quality in the healthy range.

Since transportation has the most profound impact on air quality, making the choice to spend less time behind the wheel is an easy way to reduce the emissions that lead to poor air quality. Actions like using transit, carpooling and vanpooling, choosing not to idle your vehicle, combining errands into a single trip, walking and biking more, telecommuting and/or adjusting work hours to stay off the road during peak commute times all help take cars off area roads and the related emissions out of our air. These actions are especially critical when poor air quality conditions are in the forecast. In addition, there are many eco-friendly lifestyle changes that can further positively impact air quality, including efforts to conserve energy, recycle, reduce waste and reuse items.

Throughout the summer, area residents can view the daily air quality forecast on our homepage. Visitors can also sign up there to receive the daily forecast via email. The forecast can also be found on our Facebook page and on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.

Your clean-running vehicle helps clear the air

For most people, your car is your most valuable possession. Your vehicle helps you pay the bills by getting you to and from work. It’s reliable. It’s convenient.

But, it can also be an air pollution nightmare.

Vehicular traffic is the leading source of air pollution in most U.S. cities, shutterstock_234239257according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although you may not be able to see it, your car’s tailpipe pumps out pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen.
Hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen react on hot, sunny days to form ground-level ozone. During the summer, high levels of ground-level ozone make it difficult for many people to breathe.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a variety of steps you can take to make sure your car isn’t a pollution machine.

Maintain your vehicle on a regular basis.

When a vehicle is not properly maintained, its pollution control devices will eventually fail, causing increased emissions. To avoid releasing excessive emissions into the air, follow the recommended maintenance schedule listed in your owner’s manual. Preventative maintenance tips are also available through the Gateway Clean Air Program.

Is your “check engine” or “service engine soon” light on? Responding quickly to this malfunction indicator light can save you money! The light notifies you when something in the engine management or emissions control system has failed or deteriorated. Early diagnosis and repair can prevent more costly repairs, such as replacing a catalytic converter. Responding to the malfunction light in a timely manner will prevent excess vehicle emissions, which improves overall air quality in the region.

Think fuel efficiency.

The less fuel you burn, the less pollution comes out of your tailpipe. Over time, a fuel-efficient vehicle will save you money in refueling costs. When shopping for a new vehicle, compare the gas mileage ratings of several vehicles. More information is available on the EPA’s Web site at www.epa.gov/autoemissions/.

If your current car is a gas-guzzler, there are ways to improve its gas mileage. Remove unnecessary weight from your vehicle – leave the golf clubs in the garage; take the bag of sand out of the bed of your truck as soon as the ice disappears. Accelerate slowly, and drive at a steady speed. You can improve your gas mileage about 15 percent by driving at 55 mph rather than 65 mph. Reduced gas mileage is an indication that something might be wrong with your vehicle. Take it to a repair shop for diagnosis and repair.

St. Louis publisher educates readers

Over the years, scores of print publications have either downsized or gone out of business, creating severe losses for publishers and reporters. J.B. Lester’s The Healthy Planet magazine, however, continues its reign as the only health and environmental magazine in the Greater St. Louis area. for 18 years.

In 1995, Lester left his post as co-editor and co-publisher at the Webster-Kirkwood Times with the goal of starting a new publication devoted to covering environmental and health issues. A couple years later, Lester managed to get The Healthy Planet off the ground thanks to financial help from a family member. But, as Lester recalls, the first year was a difficult one.

“Because the term ‘green’ was still unconventional at the time, it took us awhile to get our message across,” noted Lester. “But as area residents have continued to gain a greater understanding of what it means to ‘go green,’ we’ve seen the magazine’s success grow steadily over the years.”

Today, The Healthy Planet magazine is available at more than 800 locations in the Greater St. Louis area and its monthly readership has Healthy Planet Logo Newgrown to 90,000. With extensive coverage every month, The Healthy Planet includes sections like “Green & Growing,” “Kids’ Planet” and “Fresh Fare” to educate readers about organic and sustainable gardens, children’s activities that highlight green living and sustainable ways to eat healthy. Other special sections such as the Summer Camp Guide, the Holiday Green Shopping Guide and the Growers & Market Guide connect readers to resources that will help them to maintain a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle.

“I think every major city needs a magazine like The Healthy Planet because we offer important resources for people who are interested in both improving the quality of their lives and prolonging the life of our planet,” Lester said. “We have made our mark on our community and plan to keep offering what our readers want.”

As a result of Lester’s life-long interest in green and healthy living, he and his wife Niki practice what they preach by incorporating eco-friendly alternatives into every possible aspect of their lives at home and at the office. His family recycles, uses only energy-saving light bulbs, carpools to work often and eats primarily grass-fed, free-range meat. To lessen his carbon footprint, Lester said he has been using an electric lawn mower, a natural gas grill and organic yard and garden practices for years.

Poor air quality is part of what inspires Lester to not only maintain, but also continuously improve his green lifestyle. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses have increased over the years and are directly linked to poor air quality, especially in St. Louis and the Mississippi Valley. And, asthma has played a direct role in spurring Lester’s green lifestyle, because one of his daughters suffers from sports-induced asthma. As a result, Lester said he would like to see more St. Louis area residents doing their part to improve the region’s air quality by using mass transit, bicycling, walking and driving more fuel-efficient, eco-friendly vehicles.

To help his readers easily incorporate long-term, eco-friendly practices into their daily lives, Lester stresses the importance of taking small steps. That’s why each issue of The Healthy Planet is focused on introducing environmentally friendly alternatives to readers, which Lester hopes will spur greener lifestyles overall. Easy steps he promotes include starting a home recycling program, changing out light bulbs and learning more about organic gardening.

“Everyone has a part in the problem, but we can all be a part of the solution,” Lester said. “Our publication offers great information on small steps that individuals can take right now to get the ball rolling.”

To learn more about going green and helping improve the region’s air quality, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com or call the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest at 314-449-9149. To learn more about The Healthy Planet, visit www.thehealthyplanet.com or call (314) 962-7748.